MIAMI BEACH, Fla.—Muralidharan Reddy, MD, had just finished a five-hour class on the business concepts behind running a hospital and how a hospital CEO thinks—part of the entry-level curriculum at SHM’s Leadership Academy. As he stood up from the round table in a room still buzzing with conversation, he was glad he had signed up—in fact, he had been one of the first to arrive for the 7:30 a.m. session at the Fontainebleau resort.
“It improves my CV, number one,” says Dr. Reddy, a hospitalist at New England Baptist Hospital in Boston. “And it’s not just the CV, but I need the experience to guide me to work as a leader in a hospital group, or even plan on starting a group, or things like that. If I’m going to be a hospitalist, I have to work on trying to get those skills.”
A big plus, he adds, is “you get to learn from experts.”
The four-day academy provides hospitalists an intense learning experience. “Some of these skills, people learn it on the job or you get it through Academy,” Dr. Reddy says. “So I do both.”
Hospitalists who participate in the session repeatedly express concerns that if they don’t hone their understanding of the business aspects of the hospital and refine their skills in interacting with colleagues, they could be left behind in a fast-moving environment.
“I think it’s important,” said Mana Goshtasbi, MD, a hospitalist with Cogent HMG who has worked for two years at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla. “I think that’s the direction. I think you have to know this stuff because of all the changes.”
Leadership Academy courses come in three levels, which build on one another: Foundations for Effective Leadership, Personal Leadership Excellence, and Strengthening Your Organization. Those who have completed the three levels can apply for certification, which requires completion of a pre-approved leadership project.
Know Your Value, Know Your Customers
In his first-level session, instructor Michael Guthrie, MD, MBA, executive in residence and adjunct professor at the University of Colorado Denver School of Business’ program in health administration, spent most of his presentation on his feet, wending his way among the tables, challenging the physician-students to think differently from the ways they’ve been trained to think about healthcare. That starts with stepping outside of themselves and taking a look at how they are viewed in terms of the hospital they’re working with as hospitalists, says Dr. Guthrie, former CEO of the Good Samaritan Health System in San Jose, Calif., and former COO for the Penrose-St. Francis Healthcare System in Colorado.
“What’s affecting the organization that you operate in, and what does that mean about the kinds of demands that are being made of you and requests that are being made of you?” he asks the attendees. “What does it mean about the value that’s received from the work that you do in that organization?”
A hospitalists’ value is a common theme. “What is it that you offer as hospitalists that has created a group of enthusiasts?” he asks. “What is it that you offer to any customer that’s of value to them that they would give up their hard-earned money in exchange for it? Who are your customers?”
A key “customer” group is primary-care physicians (PCPs) whose patients end up under a hospitalist’s care, he explains. They get value from the hospitalist in a variety of ways.
“That’s a more effective way for them to spend their life [at their own clinic],” he says. “They get to manage their schedule differently, they don’t have to drive. They are all exchange values. … There’s a very definite exchange going on here. If you fail in that exchange, we all know what would happen, right? They’d stop sending you patients.”